If only the LAST one…came with a warning label

A warning label. You know…something that forewarned us about what was going to be next. Like the label on your shirt that says, wash in cold water to avoid shrinking. Or the label on the screen window that says, will not stop a small child from falling out. Okay, so maybe those labels seem to warn about the obvious, but there is a place in my life that I could have used a few helpful warning labels.

Actually a handful of warning labels handed to me on the day I gave birth to my children, would have been perfect. Not warning labels about what I should watch out for, because there is something grand about the element of surprise…like the first day they learn to walk or ride down the street on their bike…but a warning label that would identify the last of things.

As we round the corner of senior year, I find myself walking slowly to each event, in hopes of elongating the getting there part, so the actual event ending, will be further away as well. I find myself questioning if this is the last….

Some lasts are obvious. The last final, the last game, the last prom, the last day of high school. We can mark those on the calendar well in advance and then plan for them accordingly, even marking the days as we go. We can come prepared mentally as we charge the batteries on the video camera, and the regular camera, wear some waterproof mascara, invite family and friends to witness the excitement and even create a celebration around it. We can drag it out and watch it again, if we know it is coming.

But what about those other lasts? The ones that were actually the ‘last’ but you didn’t know…because there were no warning labels. Maybe I could have planned better with more preparation, or celebration or at least savored it a little longer…if only I had known.

I wish I could even remember the last time his hand slipped from my grip. I wonder what I was thinking. Was it me that pulled my hand from his? Was he heading off somewhere or were we just trying to be separate? I wonder what I would have done differently if I had known it was going to be the last time…would I have held on longer?

How about the last time he said, ‘hey mom…look at me!’ I can’t remember when the last time was, but I can still hear his little voice so vividly. His yearning for me to share his moment, his act, his life. When was that? It’s so long ago it feels like a different lifetime. What made the last time, the last time? Was I not paying attention? Did I look uninterested? Or was it just time for him to find others to watch him in his life.

I wish there were more warning labels: last hug in public, last time for date night at the movies, last time racing me across the pool, last time wanting me to sit and watch him practice, the last time he smiled at me and still thought I was cool…

Maybe I wouldn’t have done anything different even with the warning. Maybe I would have simply nodded and understood it was time. But I sure do walk slowly to the field these days, happy to share his moment, his act, his life…even without him saying, ‘hey mom…look at me!’

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Perhaps it’s good that there are no warning labels, because I can hear my little voice now begging, ‘no…please….not yet. I’m not ready for this to be the last one yet.’ Perhaps that’s why it’s so important to stay present in each moment, because we really never know when the last one will be…

The Adrenalin Rush in the Bleachers

It seems to me that merely sitting for 2 hours on the bleachers, watching lacrosse…should be easy; relaxing even. But somehow that is not how it actually feels. My adrenalin rushes when they score, my heart plummets when they lose the ball and my body experiences a heightened sense of being suspended in mid air as scores remain close. It is the polar opposite of relaxing.

I understand consciously that this is not my game. That I am not on the field. That I am not the one playing and that I have had little to do with the athletic talent of my son. I remind myself that it is a game. And that someone will win and someone will lose…

Yet somehow that is not enough coaching to keep my emotions in check. I find myself holding my own head with only seconds remaining, trying to visualize us with the ball, with our team hurling it into the goal one more time. I scream again “Go White!” as if they need my coaching, as if I fear they will stop giving it all they have; as if they need my help; as if they are actually we.

I remind myself that they have a coach and they will do their best because they do want to win! I remind myself that this is not actually our team, as I have done nothing to get them this far. I try to sit back comfortably as the time out is called. I inhale deeply and get myself together. I begin to talk myself into the fact that I should relax and simply watch the kids play. After all, it is just a game, isn’t it? As I glance at the clock, I decide I should head to the restrooms so I can regroup…but when I look at the clock again, I am compelled to skip the break as my brain taunts that I will not have enough time. That I will miss something…

Then suddenly I am right there again as the game goes back into play. My voice rattling off my cheers, clapping, trying to stay positive and hopeful…but all the while begging the universe to just let them win the game. Begging to see this senior year end with our team yelling with excitement and exasperation at being champs. Yes, that is what I wanted…us to be the champions.

The game goes into overtime and I wonder how anyone can play under this kind of pressure. I can barely sit in the stands just knowing what is at stake. First to score…wins. Really? How about 2 out of 3? Seems so drastic. One fatal move and the other team scores and wins. But they don’t cower under the pressure; instead they keep the pressure on and keep playing. My skin hurts, my head feels as if it’s going to explode and the pounding of my heart seems to radiate my whole body, making me feel queasy.

Thirty-five seconds to go and I am begging for the game to be over, as I can’t take the tension anymore…and then finally, the assist, the goal…and the win. Sticks go flying, kids go running towards each other as if just realizing how much they love one another. Moms in the stands are cheering, hugging…and even crying.

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It is only then that I sit back and breathe, wondering if calling out sick tomorrow was out of the question. I feel exhausted and energized all at the same time and I quickly scramble to figure out why my emotions run so deep. Clearly this is not my game, my team, or my efforts, so why was I leaving the field like I had played the game of my life?

But then, as I see my son walk off the field, looking a bit like a wounded soldier, I realize why. That is my baby. Ok, so that is my baby plus 18 years…but he will forever be an extension of me. I am mindful that this kind of cheering from the sidelines, yearning for his successes, his happiness, his efforts to match his rewards, has been an ongoing experience since the day I saw him take his first few steps. I feel his struggles and his accomplishments like they are mine, not because they are, nor because I am so sure I have anything to do with them, but because I brought him into this world 18 years ago with big hopes and dreams of who he would be…while secretly praying every night for his happiness.

So yes, I am just another overly excited parent from the sidelines hoping to feel some false illusion of control, but in the end, I am really just a mom, desperate to see her son happy.

The Courage to Let Go of the Familiar

What if courage is not just about being strong, but being strong enough to let go of the familiar?  Think how powerful that would be. I mean, we all know how to let go the stuff we can’t stand anymore. The things we simply don’t want in our life anymore. But the familiar? No way. Good or bad, letting go of the familiar is hard. So hard in fact that we will do almost anything to just hold on, even when we know for sure that we should let go.

What we love, is the familiar.

Now I know you are thinking that this is where I tell you how and why we need to let go. That I do it with ease, and that you should too! I would go as far as to as to say that some of my  favorite peeps are reading this right now nodding their heads and saying, ‘she is the master of letting go.’

But as you know, things are not always as they seem. In fact, quite the opposite is true and lately, as my universe turns my world onto a slight, yet constant tilt, I am confronted with just this topic and it makes me dizzy. Literally.  It’s kind of ironic in a way, because I have episodes of situational vertigo. It is like it sounds, if the situation calls for it, my world literally begin to spin.

If you have never experienced vertigo, I can get you to the experience quite quickly. You are lying in bed asleep when suddenly your subconscious decides it is time to turn over. Yet as you do, the whole bed begins to spin, as if your bed has turned into a tilt a whirl ride. My reaction is to  instantly sit up and pray for balance. Stability.

Sometimes, though, even when not experiencing vertigo, I feel that spinning sensation. This month it appears when I get in the car. I don’t know for sure if it is the radio constantly lulling songs about missing people, loving people or feelings of despair, or if it’s just the sheer quiet of the car and being alone…but every time I buckle up and hit the gas pedal, I begin to cry.

The more I cry, the more things spin.

I hear my mom’s voice echoing her fears as she talks about her cancer returning. Her disappointment about our belief that she had been the lucky one. The miracle. The one that had been cured from a cancer that has no cure. I can hear her fears, as mine join in quietly as well. That she doesn’t deserve this. That we don’t deserve this. My head spins again and I try to regroup. I need her in my life, I think to myself…and so she will have to fight and stay.

The spinning continues as I think of my boys, and graduation and it transforms into a dizzy spell. 

Graduation. My oldest, now 21 reports that he will be graduating early. I don’t know why I don’t just feel proud, but instead ill prepared for him to graduate.  He is in college. I know where he is and what he does. Sort of. We were supposed to have one more year to stay in that familiar place. And now what? Now we have to let go…earlier? What does that mean for what is next? It feels like I just got adjusted to him being several hours away, and now we must prepare for something different. 

As I continue to cry, I see my 18-year-old. I see him as a toddler calling my name, yearning for my attention. I see him as a 13-year-old as he swaggers around me in a huddle with his friends. I see him now…as he declares his freedom and his need to be independent. I can see my hand reaching out for his…and he is not there. I try to remember if I knew the moment before his declaration of independence, that the day had arrived. I think and think, but can’t. My mind keeps spinning and my brain tries to gain control.

The car stops and I put it into park, feeling thankful for my short drive to work.  The break under my foot reminds me of abruptly sitting up after a vertigo episode…panting, but feeling steady.

I see my moms face more clearly. Her beautiful eyes and sweet voice. I call to the universe to give her the courage to let go of the familiar (even of her hair), so as to have more life, more time, more love. I see my oldest and smile as I think about how he has created a powerful and inspirational life. Graduating early….from Cornell. I call to the universe to give me the strength to let go of who he is for me, so that he can become who he will be for others. And then I see my 18 year old and I am in awe that he is so sure he can do this on his own, even before it is time. That he has taken his lacrosse talent and turned it into a dream come true as he moves onto the D1 field. That he was relentless in his efforts and never strayed from his goal. 

It is only when the seatbelt falls back to its’ original spot that I feel balanced again. Feeling grateful to have a mom who has a reason to fight for life and to have raised two children that are excited about the unfamiliar that life has to offer.

It is only then, when I am freed from my car, that I feel brave enough to let go of what I know . to walk courageously into what I do not know…with hope and inspiration of something even better.

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